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Action on flat refusal; Compulsory purchase order plan.

Byline: By PETER YOUNG Political Editor

COUNCIL bosses may use compulsory purchase powers to avoid a delay in plans to demolish vandal-hit flats in a Newcastle neighbourhood.

All the properties are standing empty but council officials have been trying to gain possession of one of the flats for nine months without success.

Negotiations are taking place with agents following the death of the owner but if these fail a compulsory purchase order will be needed.

The problem is at St Lawrence Square, Byker, one of two sites earmarked for housing improvements costing pounds 17m. Unpopular 60s-built flats are being pulled down and the plan is to replace them with new homes including family housing.

Demolition started in August but officials say work cannot get under way on one block until the problem with the flat is resolved.

The property is on the first floor of a terrace of 44 flats which are all empty and have become a target for vandals. The majority of properties are councilowned and the tenants have all moved out. Only five were private and the council has reached agreement with four of the owners.

Negotiations have been going on with agents for the remaining property since January but no agreement has been reached.

In a report to councillors, director of regeneration Marie Fallon says the council will continue to negotiate but a compulsory purchase order may be needed. "The only property which remains in private ownership is the currently unoccupied, boarded up first floor flat.

"By instituting compulsory purchase proceedings now, it should be possible to expedite the site assembly process so the site is available for development as soon as possible. It will also enable the demolition of the unoccupied properties which are a target for crime and vandalism."

Plans for the redevelopment of two sites, St Lawrence Square and South Byker, were unveiled in April 2006 following a design competition won by Nottingham based architects Letts Wheeler.

The scheme includes building 255 new homes and improving up to 346 others.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 18, 2007
Words:337
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